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Movements, Styles, and Tendencies Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau Collage

Started: 1890

Ended: 1905

"Art is a line around your thoughts."

Gustav Klimt Signature

Summary

Generating enthusiasts in the decorative and graphic arts and architecture throughout Europe and beyond, Art Nouveau appeared in a wide variety of strands, and, consequently, it is known by various names, such as the Glasgow Style, or, in the German-speaking world, Jugendstil. Art Nouveau was aimed at modernizing design, seeking to escape the eclectic historical styles that had previously been popular. Artists drew inspiration from both organic and geometric forms, evolving elegant designs that united flowing, natural forms resembling the stems and blossoms of plants. The emphasis on linear contours took precedence over color, which was usually represented with hues such as muted greens, browns, yellows, and blues. The movement was committed to abolishing the traditional hierarchy of the arts, which viewed the so-called liberal arts, such as painting and sculpture, as superior to craft-based decorative arts. The style went out of fashion for the most part long before the First World War, paving the way for the development of Art Deco in the 1920s, but it experienced a popular revival in the 1960s, and it is now seen as an important predecessor - if not an integral component - of modernism.

Key Ideas

The desire to abandon the historical styles of the 19th century was an important impetus behind Art Nouveau and one that establishes the movement's modernism. Industrial production was, at that point, widespread, and yet the decorative arts were increasingly dominated by poorly-made objects imitating earlier periods. The practitioners of Art Nouveau sought to revive good workmanship, raise the status of craft, and produce genuinely modern design that reflected the utility of the items they were creating.
The academic system, which dominated art education from the 17th to the 19th century, underpinned the widespread belief that media such as painting and sculpture were superior to crafts such as furniture design and ironwork. The consequence, many believed, was the neglect of good craftsmanship. Art Nouveau artists sought to overturn that belief, aspiring instead to "total works of the arts," the famous Gesamtkunstwerks, that inspired buildings and interiors in which every element worked harmoniously within a related visual vocabulary. In the process, Art Nouveau helped to narrow the gap between the fine and the applied arts, though it is debatable whether this gap has ever been completely closed.
Many Art Nouveau practitioners felt that earlier design had been excessively ornamental, and in wishing to avoid what they perceived as frivolous decoration, they evolved a belief that the function of an object should dictate its form. In practice this was a somewhat flexible ethos, yet it would be an important part of the style's legacy to later modernist movements, most famously the Bauhaus.
Detail of <i>The Kiss</i> (1907-08) by Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt famously said, “Enough of censorship…I refuse every form of support from the state, I’ll do without all of it,” – because he was attacked for his work’s swirling erotic forms, he went on pioneer his Gold Period – one of the highlights of Art Nouveau.

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